Honoring 100 Years of Dreaming
story and photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Laura Butler always wears a hat for special
occasions. And an elegant suit with matching heels.
But Saturday morning, as more than 130 parade participants lined up in front of the Morgan County Board of Education office, she was dressed up, but still bare-headed.
Carefully, she taped the image of her late husband and former county commissioner and civic leader, Walter Curtis Butler, Jr., onto her passenger side car door. She stepped back from the car, and despite the bubble of energy and enthusiasm around her, she was silent.
A year ago, her husband had ridden with her in this parade that she has been organizing for the 11 years she has served as the branch’s president.
A year ago, he was battling lung cancer, but still managed to share words of inspiration with the crowd.
A year ago, the man who had worked tirelessly since 1969 to bring political and social equality to Morgan County, was fighting for his life.
All of this was on her mind. But she didn’t stop to think about it.
“I’ve just got to do this,” she told herself.
So, she donned her hat, climbed into the car, and waved cheerfully as the county branch’s 29th annual NAACP parade honoring the organization’s 100th birthday made its way down East Avenue into downtown Madison.
It was important for her to work through the day’s pain, she said, because Mr. Butler would have wanted her to be strong.
“This year, we are celebrating 100 years of dreaming,” she said. “And Mr. Butler was part of that 100 years of dreams.”
And in honor of those dreams, with music, dance and song, the community came together with Laura Butler to help celebrate the day, and its significance both for the branch and the national organization.
“One day, we will all just come together,” Laura said. “It’s going to happen. It may not be my day. It may be my grandchildrens’ day. But it will happen.”
She has faith, and she is inspired by that faith. And, to that end, she will continue to believe in the work she began with her husband. There is no reason to stop.
“He’d tell me all the time, after I finished something, ‘Okay, Baby, you did it.’ Now, I just have to do it,” she said.
PRINTED IN THE APRIL 23, 2009 EDITION